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After an ACLU Complaint, Springfield Changes Policy for Police Protection Fees During Parades

The city is now charging all organizers of parades for police protection

November 09, 2011|Emily Rittman, Ben Knaup | Reporter, Photographer

Springfield, Mo — The city of Springfield is changing its policy on who pays for police fees during a parade. A warning from the American Civil Liberties Union sparked the change. Members of the ACLU told city leaders they must either charge everyone or no one for police protection. “It was recently brought to our attention by the ACLU that we have been in violation of case law,” City Manager Greg Burris wrote in a letter to six organizations.

Members of the Greater Ozarks Veterans & Patriotic Organization received one of those letters. Last Saturday for the first time in 35 years, Springfield’s Veterans' Day Parade organizers paid for police protection. “Someone filed a complaint that they were being charged for officer protection and other people weren't,” GOVP President Rich Chaplin said. “The ACLU said ‘we don't care which way you go but you have to treat everyone the same.’”

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An individual contacted the ACLU to complain about the cost of police protection for the 2010 Pridefest, an event to celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lifestyles. “Our security plan charged for officers to deal with hecklers,” Springfield City Attorney Dan Wichmer said. “The ACLU said you can't charge more to protect a group because of people outside of an event.” The city agreed with the ACLU and sent letters to six organizations that were considered “community based holiday events” and not required to pay for police protection. The letter informed organizers they need to pay $28 an hour per officer and pay for workman's compensation insurance. “The lowest quote we found was $1173 for a one year policy,” Chaplin said. “We needed officers for about two hours, that's it.”

Chaplin says the new cost is not a drop in the bucket. “It’s quite a substantial hit,” Chaplin said. “It’s a very good possibility this may be the last parade that we do. That's not to say another organization might not step up and take over.”

Organizers of the Irish Festival Association and St. Patrick's Day parade are contacting corporate sponsors to keep their 32 year tradition. They say workman's comp is the main financial obstacle. “Which for a small little group like ours is a big deal, the whole expenses of this will double the cost of putting on the parade,” Irish Festival Association President David Trippe said. “It puts us in financial jeopardy and jeopardizes future parades.”

A spokesperson for the ACLU says an individual and not Pridefest organizers contacted the organization. “Most people just think a parade just happens,” Trippe said. “I'm sure when they arrive at the parade it looks like a lot of people are having fun. No one really thinks about who pays for it now we do need to think about who pays for it.”

The following organizations were exempt from paying for police protection. The organizers are now required to pay:

1.      Greater Ozarks Veterans and Patriotic Organization- Veterans’ Day Parade

2.      Springfield Reunion Club, Inc.- Park Day Reunion Parade

3.      Midtown Neighborhood Association- Fourth of July Parade

4.      Irish Festival Association- St. Patrick’s Day Parade

5.      NAACP- Martin Luther King Jr. March

6.      Urban Districts Alliance- Christmas Parade

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